flying under the radar

Juventus striker Carlos TevezIt didn’t always used to be this way, Serie A.

Back in the 80’s and 90’s, the Italian top flight was legit. The ish, even. Many of the world’s best players — to name a handful, Maradona, Baggio, Weah, Maldini… even a quite young Totti — plied their trade in Italy. They played with clubs who were truly giants at the time, like Milan, Juventus, Inter, Lazio, Napoli and even Sampdoria. Starting with the 88/89 season, the league had at least one participant in the UEFA Cup/Champions League final in nine of the next 10 seasons. The Milan Derby was probably the most anticipated rivalry in the world footballing calendar. Serie A was rife with high wages, a wide following, glitz and glam — all the perks that came with being the recognized “best league in the world”.

But two decades on, we find a league that’s a shadow of its former self.

Pinpointing a single reason for its downfall would be impossible. Calciopoli, the match fixing scandal that rocked Italian football in 2006, is often pinned with much of the blame. That certainly didn’t help, but blaming it alone would be overly simplistic. Doing so ignores factors like crumbling stadia, a series of poor TV deals, decreasing fan interest, an increase in hooliganism, and even a (perhaps incorrect) stigma of an unattractive style of play — just to name a few.

And because of all of that, today we’re left with a league that gets a fraction of the attention that it once did, and plays out in a relative obscurity given its rich history.

And that’s a huge shame.

For one, things aren’t near as bad in Serie A as advertised. But secondly, a lack of attention on the league means that some really interesting stories are unfolding without getting the notice they should be due.

And one of those stories is Carlos Tevez. Continue reading

ten words or less #63

With my wife sick, this past weekend presented itself as an opportunity for a whirlwind of football viewing here at WSOTP. I’ve not kept any statistics on this kind of thing, but I can say with confidence that I watched more soccer this past weekend than I ever have before. Saturday included a marathon of five straight live games which, between Twitter and A.D.D., my brain had a hard time handling.

ONU Men's Soccer in the Final Four

seeing my alumnus polar bears make their way to the national title game might just have been the highlight of my weekend.

The morning started well with Spurs bagging a win, Arsenal and Chelsea both losing, and an unexpected, entertaining shootout between Manchester United and Reading. And while the (oddly timed) midday MLS Cup Final might have seemed the marquee match, I was really looking forward to watching my former college team — the Ohio Northern University Polar Bears — play in our school’s very first NCAA Division III National Championship match. My former teammate Milky even stopped by to take in both the late matches, also allowing me a solid four hours of Liverpool jibes…

Much to our chagrin, ONU were quickly picked apart by an admittedly impressive Messiah College side. But the result doesn’t dim my pride in my old team for everything they accomplished this year. Considering the program only had 8 winning seasons prior to my class’s arrival on campus, and had never made the National Tournament prior to Milky’s, to see the program continue to build on our successes — even despite a heavy loss — had us both beaming. The sky’s the limit from here, boys.

Anyway, below are some of the better links from around the world of soccer from the last week.

The perfect gift for your soccer fan? Sexy Managers Calendar. –

A photographic essay of grassroots football in third world countries.

Beckham’s kids old enough to be called full kit wankers. –

Carlos Tévez’s paystub will make you very jealous. –

Hot Chip makes a seriously WTF FIFA-esque music video. –

Shout out to local Casey Weddle for being named All-American.

“We need to be more assertive,” mumbles Rosický to nobody.

Floridian city most likely to land an MLS side… Tampa? –

Once again, Spooky captures how I’m feeling about Spurs. –

 A top-25 list for boots from Sneaker Report… I’m in. –

straitjacket f.c.

No matter where you travel around the globe, there is one thing that is virtual certainty to be found among the local population: crazy people.

Balotelli Straitjacket

the official kit of straitjacket fc

That’s right, crazy people. They are everywhere. Statistics indicate that as many as 1 in 3 people currently have a mental disorder. So if you think of two of your friends, and neither of them are crazy, then you are the crazy one. There’s no sense in denying it. Don’t get mad at me — blame the statisticians if you’re going to blame — so why don’t you calm down and take this pill.

Much better. Now let’s continue.

No matter what walk of life you’re from, nor the social circles in which you associate, there are bound to be a few crazies sprinkled amongst you. And professional footballers are not immune to the statistics either. In fact, they even seem to have a predisposition to it. Maybe it has something to do with the competitive nature of the sport, or perhaps it’s due to having our heads pounded by the ball repetitively throughout our youth. Either way, there do seem to be a lot of mentally unbalanced players out there. Now, I’m not talking about players that make insanely poor choices on the pitch. No, I’m talking about the type of crazy where a player is liable to kung-fu kick a fan behind the sponsor boards.

Which got me to thinking: if I were to name a team composed of the craziest footballers, who would be chosen to pull on the straitjacket kit?

So before I skip off to the local mental ward, I thought it best to define a set of rules for selecting players to a team that should probably be medicated:

  • I’m limiting this list to current footballers, simply because there are far too many former crazy players to fairly make a team. Maradona, di Canio, Gascoigne, Chinaglia, René Higuita, Cantona… you see where I’m going with this.
  • I’ve opted for the trusty 4-3-3 formation to construct my side, simply because we need enough spots for the plethora of unbalanced strikers in the game. Though admittedly, we should probably be starting a side full of keepers if we’re using that logic.
  • I’ll also be selecting a manager, as no proper team can be named without someone to steer the good ship Crazy.
So without further ado, here is who I’d pick for the first ever starting XI for Straitjacket F.C.

ten words or less #45

tim lieweke, david beckham and bruce arena

you have to wonder if beckham knew about the galaxy's new kits before he agreed to come back to MLS.

I don’t know about any other bloggers, but sometimes I go through spells where I feel like I have absolutely nothing to write about, which are then followed by very brief periods where I feel like I have a million things I need to share. Right now, I’m in the middle of one of the busy bits. I’ve got at least four separate pieces I’m working on at the moment, so if nothing else, you’ve got some original content coming shortly…. Hooray, right?!

Additionally, I feel like I’m going to wet myself in anticipation of Tottenham’s clash with Manchester City this Sunday. The thrashing the Citizens gave Spurs back in August seems like eons ago. And even though the city-loaned Adebayor won’t be allowed to play, the Citizens are lacking key players (thanks to the Africa Cup of Nations) and aren’t in the best form. If Spurs win, they cement themselves as title contenders. If they lose, well, they’re just being Tottenham. Lot’s riding on this game, hence my bladder-exploding excitement.

In the meantime, enjoy these recent works by other people:

Maybe Spurs shouldn’t be buying a new centerback this window. –

I need a game like this to come to Android. –

No matter what your team nickname is, these aren’t acceptable. –

Appreciating the defensive midfielder. Best article of this young year. –

Finally: the Open Cup will be a proper cup competition. –

Wherever Tévez goes, drama is sure to follow. –

The quaint nature of Non-League football is sometimes overwhelming. – pitchinvasion

If Adidas make these in white, I might ditch Nike. –

A “How to look like Leon Best” instructional video… sorta. –

You’ve never heard of the world’s most prolific, active goalscorer. –

new year’s resolutions

As 2011 winds to a close and the dawn of a new year is upon us, I imagine many of you are in the final stages of planning for the annual — and often eventually pointless — ritual called “New Year’s Resolutions”. Every year, millions around the world make commitments to achieve personal goals over the next year such as losing a set amount of weight, breaking bad habits or forming good new ones.

times square soccer ball

now that a very soccer ball-ish times square ball has dropped, it's time to think about what we want to have happen in 2012

However, despite these resolutions generally being made with the best of intentions, for one reason or another, we normally have a hard time keeping them. Scientists tell us that only 12% of all of New Year’s Resolutions are actually met by year’s end, a rate poor enough to make you wonder why we even make them in the first place.

Personally, I like to take the easy way out by not botering to make resolutions, period. By taking this approach, it prevents me from feeling disappointed when I don’t meet the overly ambitious targets I always end up setting for myself. After all, the easiest goals to achieve are the one’s you never make… or something like that.

But just because I don’t set my own resolutions, that doesn’t mean that I can’t make empty promises for other people instead.

Why pass up soaking in all of the instant gratification of setting ambitious goals, especially when I’m not responsible for any of the work that goes into turning dreams into reality?!

With that in mind, I present to you my idealistic 2012 World Football New Year’s Resolutions list:

For Mario Balotelli to keep being… Mario Balotelli

 balotelli why always me

i don't know why, mario... but let's hope it stays that way.

To say that the young Manchester City starlet has endured a roller coaster 2011 might just be the understatement of the year. From the highs of driving around Manchester’s city centre in a convertible giving fans high fives, to the lows of lighting his own bathroom on fire with fireworks, the Italian starlet has been nothing short of a machine at producing ridiculous headlines. He seems more at home in a made-up comic strip than in the life of a real, live professional athlete. And that’s just the way we like it, especially since he tends to make my job writing significantly easier. So please, Super Mario, don’t go changing anything. Just keep being you: it’s what you do best.

For Jürgen Klinsmann to show his grand USMNT experiment is actually working.

Now, don’t take this the wrong way. I’m all for Klinsmann’s efforts to reshape the national team and build it a new identity, and I know that this transformation won’t happen overnight. It needs some time to set in, like any master plan, and I feel like a pretty patient guy. However, it’s hard to stomach loses and ties against sides that we had been — and should still be — beating. I’m not asking for us to start rolling over Mexico like the Spanish would Andorra, but I would prefer to see us start stringing together some positive results sooner rather than later. A continued run of bad showings could, after all, have a devastating impact on the team’s moral and confidence. And that’s definitely not something we need heading into World Cup qualifying.

For John Terry to finally get what’s coming to him.

I’ve made no secret for my distaste for Terry in this space, so it’s not surprising that I would want for fate to finally catch up with the bastard in 2012. And even though I don’t need to recant all of his sins since most of them have played out publicly, I still want to. So, here’s why John’s karma is long overdue to bite Mr. Chelsea: 2001) drunkenly taunts American tourists at Heathrow airport immediately after 9/11, 2002) charged with assault for an altercation with a nightclub bouncer, 2009) takes cash bribes to give unauthorized tours of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, 2010) may or may not have had an affair with a former teammate/friend’s baby mama, 2011) racially abuses the younger brother of international teammate during a match. Even though he’s been “cleared” in a majority of those cases, how can one guy be investigated for so many claims and they all be false? Oh yeah, they can’t. Cue the Law & Order dun-dun!

For Jose Mourinho to finally to overhaul Barcelona as the best side in Spain.

mourinho eye poke

if mourinho doesn't come out on top soon, i fear for eyes the world over.

I know it’s pretty unrealistic to think this could happen in the 2012 calendar year, despite the fact that Real are currently three points clear of rivals Barça going into the Winter Break. Pep Guardiola and his men definitely still have a death-grip like hold over Mourinho and his charges’ confidence, as is evident with their impressive strings of results in the multitude of Clásicos in 2011. And while I’d love to see Los Blancos regain the edge in the rivalry for reasons that include restoring “parity” to Spain (and I very loosely use the word parity considering it’s a league where only two teams ever win) and being a fan, my main reason for wanting to see Mourinho finally overcome his demons is much, much more important. You see, I fear that if the Special One’s galácticos don’t take over the crown as Spain’s best soon, I think he’s going to poke out EVERYONE’s eyes.

For Alex Morgan to increase the number of shoots she books like this one.

So what if I’m married? I’m allowed to have internet crushes on attractive celebrities just like anyone else. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with desiring to see more scantily clad pictures of my chosen crush. I mean as far as the picture shown, it underlines her ability to look attractive in both classy and sporty attire, not to mention her ability to knock the balls around… knock balls around the pitch you dirty perverts. And thanks to the WUSA WPS getting a renewed lease on life from US Soccer, Miss Morgan should stay in the limelight just a little bit more.

For Daniel Levy to not only continue sticking to his guns on not selling, but also pull the trigger on some big buys too.

Look, I’m stoked that the Tottenham chairman told Chelsea to shove their £40 million for Modrić where the sun doesn’t shine over the summer. It showed ambition, and sent a message to the rest of the growing egos in the locker room that nobody was bigger than the club. But aside from the last minute swoop for Rafa van der Vaart two summers ago and the bargain buying of Scott Parker from a desperate-for-cash West Ham, Levy hasn’t exactly shown any willingness to spend to match the club’s ambition. Though the free signing of Brad Friedel and the short-term solution of Adebayor up top have proven to be shrewd bits of business, the club desperately need to make a statement buy. Otherwise, can Spurs really consider themselves title challengers if we’re the only side that’s not continuously bringing in world class, young talent? I don’t think so.

For Neymar to finally move to a team in Europe, and for said team, to make him cut his hair.

neymar and his hair

hey, rufio. leave your hair in brazil once you leave for europe.

It might just be me, but I’ve grown extremely tired of the weekly Neymar transfer rumors. At this point, I’m not sure if the constant stream of “done deal” rumors to Real Madrid/Barcelona are actually true, or if it’s just an elaborate ruse by Santos to raise their asking price for the extremely talented young starlet. And if anything was learned from Barcelona wiping the floor with Santos at the Club World Cup final, it’s that Neymar needs to move on to a club where he’ll be pushed to raise the level of his game… and that clearly can’t happen in Brazil. And let’s be honest, a classier club will actually make the kid cut off his stupid rooster hair so he looks like a proper footballer.

For Blackburn Rovers owners Venkeys to finally put their manager out of his misery.

Don’t let yesterday’s upset win away at Old Trafford fool you: even a blind squirrel finds a nut from time to time. Said plainly, Rovers boss Steve Keane is not a Premier League caliber manager. The rumors of his impending sacking have been circulating since at least the tail end of last season. And to be completely honest with you, I have no clue how he’s still in his job. The Ewood Park outfit have struggled in nearly every department on field this season, and the fans have stood in unison for months saying that want the poor guy out. Maybe the Venkeys think they can save themselves from the drop if they just stick it out with the same manager all season, who knows. But regardless of whether you have a shit manager or not, if you don’t end up spending a significant amount of money to bring in fresh blood this January, you are going down.

For Carlos Tévez to end up at A.C. Milan.

With the dispute between Carlitos and City having now extended an entire half of a season, the Citizens are finally ready to rid themselves of this headache permanently. And luckily, they’ve lowered their asking price enough that a few other clubs are at least considering the thought of making a move for the temperamental striker. Though Corinthians have renewed their interest, the club making the most noise about signing Tévez are the Rosaneri. So why do I want him to end up there? Well, if Carlos is signed permanently, Milan will have the undisputed craziest front line in the world: Robinho (the brat), Pato (the indifferent), Cassano (the mad hatter), Ibrahimović (the bully) and Tévez (the ego). And with Silvio Berlusconi resuming his duties as club chairman, I’m really hoping he forces Allegri to play all five of them at once.

And lastly, for Fernando Torres to keep looking like this:

sulking torres on chelsea bench

ten words or less #42

ninja balotelli

despite becoming a full fledged ninja, balotelli still can't put his bib on right.

It’s happy times at wrong side of the pond these days. Spurs are still sitting in a lofty position in the table at fairly advanced stage of the season, even despite dropping points on a cold wet night in Stoke.

Speaking of cold nights, I’m also looking forward to the winter weather that’s finally descending upon the Midwest. I means finally allowed to starting thinking about the only other hobby besides soccer-obsession that I really take part in… snow riding. However, I’m not foolish enough to think that all of you are as equally pleased about the arrival of Old Man Winter as I am. Don’t worry though, you’re not the only ones: Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli also hates the cold, and is apparently hoping that his knowledge of the ancient art of the ninja will keep him warmer through the frigid Northern English winter.

If looks could kill, Ronaldo would be a murderer… –

…so you better give him more of your money! –

Fulham to redevelop Craven Cottage and still keep the cottage. –

This documentary makes me wish I understood Russian. –

Someone actually thinks Harkes was “getting better” at commentating? –

Messi comes to his senses, ditches PES for FIFA. –

Tévez saves Christmas from Sepp Blatter. Absolutely brilliant. –

The Timbers never cease to amaze me with awesomeness. –

the real idiot

carlos tevez derp

derp... i has a hat.

Trust me when I say that I know that I’m hardly the world’s most PC football blogger. I know that I occasionally use offensive language to convey my points, but my hope is that my readers get that I’m not really a prejudiced/racist/offensive person… I’m just using slang as an to attempt to drive home my points and make the reading a bit more entertaining. So please don’t get offended with what I’m about to say…

Carlos Tévez might be retarded.

What? Do you have a better explanation for everything going on with the Argentine at the Eastlands Etihad?

I’ll admit that I’ve been giving Carlos the benefit of the doubt for a while. Regardless of the quasi-understandable excuses he provided for his behavior — not being able to adjust to life in England, trouble on the home front, he’s not being respected by his club, etc. — you could forgive his tirades as his regular goals and effort on the pitch made your side much better on the whole. So much did his on field exploits influence my opinion, I was even beginning to feel some sympathy for the guy.

But after the latest melee with Mancini in Munich, I’m starting to question Tévez’s mental capacity. The constant stream of blame shifting pouring from his mouth has become so regular, I suspect even he doesn’t know what he’s saying anymore.

Let’s take a quick look at the “Tévez Timeline” that I created below to try to catalog some of this madness:The Tevez Timeline

Noting that the above lacks the incident in which he controversially called Gary Neville the heinous name of “boot licker”, it’s clear that many of the decisions made by Crazy Carlos are not those of a sane mind. Collectively, they appear to point to a man who is mentally unstable.

The tryst on the Bayern sidelines has predictably resulted in the press, club management and both neutral and rabid fans alike all calling for Tévez’s head on a plate. How dare a player who is paid so much tell his manager no in such dire circumstances? And they’re right, as not many of us could speak to our bosses that way and expect to be able to talk about at the water cooler next week.

But thanks to such a polarizing choice of action, for the first time in ages it seems that the majority of public opinion is on the same side of an issue as Manchester City… something I couldn’t have ever predicted six months ago.

Tévez’s refual to play in the Champions League has been labeled the prime example of how players now garner too much power in today’s game. It’s players like Crazy Carlos that are to blame for the lack of loyalty in the sport, the undermining of managerial power within squads, super-high salaries, and Qatar bribing their way to a winning World Cup bid. “That’s why City should make an example of him,” they say.

And to some degrees they’re correct. But just as I’m about to light my torch and gather my pitchfork to go join the masses in marching Tévez to the gallows, I remember my offensive remark from earlier: Carlos Tévez might be retarded.

kia joorabchian and carlos tevez

joorabchian has skillfully used tévez to blind us from what's really going on behind the scenes.

How is it possible that a guy like Carlos freaking Tévez would be able to game the clubs so effectively? The guy can barely speak to the press without contradicting himself every other sentence; I hardly think that he’d be able to intentionally cause a constant flow of drama and rubbish excuses to always better his situation. After all, these guys that own influential clubs are fairly intelligent men: otherwise they wouldn’t be able to afford buying a club in the first place, right?

You see, Tévez isn’t the only idiot in town. All of us — the writers, the fans, the managers and the clubs — should be categorized as retarded, too.

While we all point fingers at a spoiled, hapless, scarred Argentine boy who just so happens to have made himself fabulously rich by being amazingly skilled at the sport of soccer… someone behind the scenes is pulling all of the strings and making even more money than Tévez could fathom.

Men like Kia Joorabchian lurk in the shadows, whispering in the ears of the players, telling them the clubs don’t treat them fairly and saying that they deserve more. Kia would be content for City to hold on to him, as he’ll still get his cut of the weekly salary even if Carlos is suspended and kept away from the training ground. And he could give a damn if the forward is sacked by City. In fact this scenario would be of of even great benefit to Kia, as   “advising” the club to either sell or sack Tévez will result in him netting even more cash when the inevitable deal with a new club is struck.

We just end up ignoring all of that because we’re too busy focusing on the spotlight that Kia has pointed at Tévez. The Argentinian, never the sharpest in the bunch, was nothing more than a puppet to distract us from the backroom deals that Joorabchian is wrangling. A lucrative move to a Inter was floated at the end of the transfer window, and it wouldn’t be outlandish to think the Kia and Moratti are already hammering out the provisions of a “rescue” offer for Tévez.

If that all seems a little far fetched for you, consider Corinthian’s failed bid for Tévez over the summer.

Even for a former fan favorite, a €40 million bid from the Brazilian side seemed a bit incomprehensible. While the Brazilian economy is on the rise and the country is making great strides forward, that kind of investment seemed a bit risky considering the Brazilian league system isn’t exactly rife with clubs turning profits. But then I remembered that Corinithians is partly “owned” by sports venture capitalist group MSI, which is in turn headed by none other than Kia Joorabchian. Yeah.

So when you hear that City pulled out of the deal because they wanted all of the transfer fee up front, a more clear picture starts to take shape. Joorabchian’s MSI would have been the one’s paying the transfer fee, and they didn’t want to fork out all of that money up front for a player the group is already making money from in the first place. Meanwhile, they’ve allowed the failed transfer to set a market price for Tévez’s services, and then set Crazy Carlos loose to squawk and throw hissy fits while they find a more suitable way to maximize their profits through another deal.

Brilliant, if manipulative, work if I do say so myself. They’ve made us all look like fools by shifting the blame for Carlos’ issues away from the root source (themselves) to the player, all while they plan their next scheme in the background. Blinded by our anger for such disrespectful behavior by, we’re oblivious to the trick being played on us.

While we yell at the idiot, the real shakers and movers are laughing all of the way to the bank.

ten words or less #26

kevin prince boateng and his son jermaine

is it safe to leave children with prince based on what we know about him now?

There are definitely weeks where I could spit out like three ten words or less, and this is one of them. I have to admit that I love all of these little odds and ends type stories that permeate out of the game. And with titles being won and fates being sealed this week, there are tons of little bits to highlight churning out the media mill at the moment.

Also, not a single one of these links is a transfer rumor. Odd for this time of year, don’t you think?

Kevin-Prince Boateng has some smooth moves. – dirty tackle @

When I open a bar, this will be in it. –

Derp. –

Can we charge this author with footy treason? –

This is the best MLS rivalry by miles. –

Manchester City might be calling you an idiot. –

Cheeky shit: I love it. –

Shaking head… he is a typical Scouser at heart. –

in defense of a welshman

Boy oh boy! How about that Gareth Bale? The new “Welsh Wizard”, PFA Player of the Year!

gareth bale holding his PFA player of the year trophy.

bale proves that even a monkey man can look good in a tux.

I’m obviously elated with my favorite player winning the award. Waking up yesterday morning to see Bale posing with the trophy, looking all spiffy in his tux, was certainly a pleasant surprise. I honestly hadn’t expected him to win the award, but then again, I wasn’t that surprised either.

Bale winning the award was interesting for several reasons. First, it’s shocking to learn that he’s only the fourth Welshmen ever to win the award. That said, he’s certainly joining good company: Ryan Giggs, Mark Hughes and Ian Rush are the only others. Secondly, it’s also surprising to see he’s the fourth Tottenham player to win the award, joining club legends David Ginola, Clive Allen and Pat Jennings. It’s not so much of a surprise that any of them won it (all great and deserving players), so much as it’s a surprise that a club with so few league trophies in their cabinet has had so many Players of the Year on their books.

Of course, this isn’t really defending Bale receiving the award. Like I said earlier, I wasn’t expecting the young winger to take home the prize this season. Just being nominated for the award was had me beaming with pride for the boy. And while I’m tickled pink that Gareth has won the coveted PFA prize, I’m not looking forward to the mountain of criticism he’ll receive for it.

And unfortunately, Gareth’s detractors will have plenty reasons to make noise.

The first and most obvious place to begin debunking Gareth’s win is with statistical comparisons between he and his fellow nominees. I’ve seen these numbers circulating around the tubes already:

Player —- Appearances —- Goals —- Assists
Bale                   26                      7                1
Nani*                28                       9               18
Nasri                 25                      9                 1
Tévez                 27                     19               6

* – Nani wasn’t nominated (but should have been)

Sure, Bale certainly pales in comparison to many of his main competitors. But there are a few problems with using statistics alone to debunk bale taking this year’s spoils.

First, it isn’t just this year that needs to be taken into account. Since PFA voting takes place in early spring of each season, you have to take into account statistics from the end of last year. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll go back to the beginning of April 2010:

Player —– Appearances —- Goals —- Assists
Bale                   34                      10               4
Nani                  35                       13             18
Nasri                 32                       9                 1
Tévez                34                      23               7

Well, looking closer at this further data probably gives further weight to the argument that Nani and Tévez probably should have won the award. But then if we add in…

Vidić                35                      4                  0

There, that makes me feel better. but just as is the case with Vidić being a quality candidate, what isn’t taken into consideration in these arguments is how Bale’s statistical contribution affected his team’s overall performance. Nani’s performances have been great, but he has a team full of amazing offensive players (ex: last year’s PFA Player of the Year, Wayne Rooney) to help carry the load. Nasri’s Arsenal finished in third, but then again, they should with the roster the gunners have. Tévez, despite all of his goals, couldn’t get rich-ass City into the Champions League. Bale’s rise to prominence began in the second half of the last season as he put in some breathtaking performances to help lift Spurs into the Champions League. Not that he did it alone, but it would be easy to think they would have missed out on fourth if it hadn’t been for the “apeman.”

ryan giggs won the pfa player of the year award in 2009

giggs didnt get as much stick when he won in 2009, even though he had worse statistics than bale.

The second reason why we can’t use statistics alone to knock Bale’s selection is precedent. When fellow Welshman Ryan Giggs was voted player of the year in 2009, the Manchester United icon had only 4 goals. Whispers were that Giggs won the award more as a nod to his illustrious career than his performances that season.

Something has to also be said about who chooses the award winners. Unlike most major awards, it’s not the media and pundits that choose this Player of the Year. The PFA is the union representing all of the professional players in the football league, and each union member is allowed to vote. Bale winning the award clearly shows that his peers think very highly of those performances over the least year. If you want to argue whether or not he won the award, take it up with your favorite player.

So statistics aside, why else does Bale get the votes?

  • The competition wasn’t all that stiff: Scott Parker and Charlie Adam, despite their sparkling performances, are playing for sides trying to stave off relegation. Teammate Rafael van der Vaart was red hot at the beginning of the campaign, but has since faded and can’t seem to even put in a full 90. Nasri has also gone cold after coming out of the gates on fire, probably due to being used out of position when Fàbregas returned from injury. Vidić is a defender, and they rarely get the nod despite being my pick as the most deserving. Tévez is generally bemoaned for his personality, attitude and perceived arrogance by opposing players, this despite being the most statistically viable candidate. And even though Nani should have been on this list, he’s so disliked by everyone that he could never get a vote.
  • Bale’s low profile: By all accounts, Gareth Bale is an extremely likable kid. He’s quiet and humble, going home to mom for his holidays. Despite scoring a hat trick in the San Siro and “hailing a taxi for Maicon” at White Hart Lane, he never seemed to let it go to his head. And oh yeah, he’s British; we all know how much that trait is overvalued in the Premier League.
  • Key performances: When Bale stepped up, he stepped up on big occasions. It’s likely that his Champions League showings, which dominated headlines for a good portion of the season, clouded the voters’ judgement. None of the other candidates can really boast a similar characteristic. So while it’s not exactly fair that a competition outside of England affected the voting for an award inside England, you can’t really ignore it either.
Ok, so none of those reasons are exactly rock solid. But they are all probably reasons why Bale received so many votes from his peers.
Listen, I’m not sitting here and saying that Bale undoubtedly had the best season of any of his peers. But he has had a great year, one that Tottenham supporters such as myself will never forget. and though he could very well prove to be a flash in the pan, that prospect shouldn’t minimize his accomplishments either.
Let the boy have his moment. he may never get to enjoy one like it again.

the themes of south africa 2010

Sixty games into this World Cup finals, and with only four left to go, I can’t help but feel like this tournament has had some distinct, tournament-wide trends. While there have been some outliers, I feel like these themes have been prevalent in nearly every match.

That’s how it feels to me at least. And since this is my blog, I feel like you need to hear about them. So here are the four themes of South Africa 2010, in no particular order…

so many people were scratching their heads about the tournament as to why france kept domenech for the finals. apparently, raymond was doing the exact same thing.

CcCrRrAaAzZzYyY coaches
I thought for sure this space would be dominated by Maradona headlines. But while the legend has kept his trap mostly shut for a majority of the month, his counterparts from other countries are busy fighting with one another over who gets to fill the shoes I expected El Diego to be wearing.

First up: Italy’s Marcello Lippi. Critized long before the tournament for choosing a squad that would — nearly in its entirety — qualify for Social Security benefits here in the States (they’re so old), Lippi was busy laying the foundation of his craziness months ago. And following the Italians’ three-and-out performance, Marcello was so embarrassed that he literally ran out of the stadium. No handshakes with the opposing coaches. Nothing. Class act.

But Lippi was to be outdone, as the much-maligned Raymond Domenech continues to fly the flag as the world’s stupidest coach. Despite having a squad ripe with talent, everyone in the world knew that Domenech was a lame duck and that Les Bleus would suffer for having him there. And suffer they did. Raymond succeeded in letting the team implode, had to send home Anelka for subordination, had a team coach quit, and saw his players refuse to train under him. Further more, the Fench went winless for the second straight competition and were generally awful.

The icing on the cake? After being eliminated by a loss to 89th ranked South Africa, Domenech didn’t shake Bafana Bafana manager Carlos Alberto Parreira’s hand either. No, instead he lectured the brazilian for a comment he made about France’s illegitimate qualification… a comment he made nearly 4 months ago. Brilliant and extremely mature timing by the craziest coach in South Africa.

Blind men are everywhere
Aside from when I’m personally playing in a game, I really do hate to criticize referees. The (un)lucky refs picked to deputize the World Cup games honestly do have some of the hardest, most pressure-filled jobs on the planet. But in this summer’s tournament, I feel like you couldn’t walk through the South Africa without tripping over a crap referee.

Yes, the most talked about topic during this summer’s finals is the unbelievably poor standard of refereeing that we’ve seen almost completely across the board. The biggest poor call so far, at least from an American’s point of view, was the Coulibaly fantom offsides/foul in the USMNT-Slovenia game. But other atrocities so far have included: Tim Cahill being wrongly sent straight off against Germany, Lampard’s non-goal in the England-Germany match, Tevez’s clearly offsides goal against Mexico, the soft yellow that Thomas Müller was given against Argentina that will cause him to miss the German’s semifinal.

Needless to say, the level of officiating in their marquee event should be extremely worrying for FIFA. With mounting evidence to justify the use of some sort of goal line technology — and fifa finally “admitting” as much — this World Cup may finally be the last straw for keeping some sort of referee aid from making its way into the game. Though odds are, FIFA will intentionally pick the worst option just so they can reject it as a failure and go back to the current, mucked up system in a few years’ time.

It is important to remember that they aren’t all doing poorly… England’s Howard Webb has turned in a very consistent set of performances.

Empty seats
This is a trend of the tournament that I really haven’t heard much talk about to this point: why are there so many empty seats? I figured at first it was just because the opening round games sometimes feature dud match ups. But this empty seat phenomenon has even reared it’s head in the later rounds (Japan’s snoozer against Paraguay being the chief example).

we probably wouldn't be seeing as many empty seats at the world cup if they didn't make the tickets so damn big.

I mean this is the world cup, right? How does this happen? In Germany, there were fans coming to host cities just to be near the stadium. In the ’94 in the USA, there were fans trying to sneak into games. But in South Africa in 2010, there are games with thousands of seats sitting empty.

Perhaps this is due to the African citizens not really being able to afford the tickets, or maybe it’s due to the fact that this game was so damn far away from anyone with money. Whatever the reason though, it’s unacceptable and frankly, a little embarrassing.

This is supposed to best football in the world, right?
Wrong. And in this tournament in particular, I feel like we’re not quite getting the Grade A, world-class level of play everyone expects from the World Cup. Or at least that’s what the American media market keeps telling us to expect.

As moronic SportsCenter anchors go on calling the World Cup the footballing world’s equivalent of the Super Bowl, it has become increasingly clear that the best comparison to the super bowl is still the Champions League. And it’s not just because their formats and functions are similar.

Let’s be honest: South Africa 2010 has proven that the world’s best football can be found in the Champions League, not in the World Cup. The play has been sloppy, disconnected, and at times down right atrocious. How many crosses have been off by about a mile? How many errant passes have been made by world class players?

Maybe it’s the ball. Maybe it’s the altitude carrying the ball further than normal. Maybe it’s even those damn vuvuzela’s distracting everyone. Maybe it can be attributed to an overly-long, drawn-out club season that keeps national teams from training together and pushes players past their physical limits. But it’s probably a combination of all three. Either way, the best football has not been on display this summer.